A friend had a very old cat named Oscar. At age 22, Oscar died. My friend chose to bury his ashes in his front yard and plant a maple tree on his resting place. A cat that he’d never seen before came by and respectfully watched while he dug the hole, spread Oscar’s ashes, and planted the tree in his memory. The cat then walked away. Moments later, neighbors who had just moved into the neighborhood walked by and asked, “Have you seen our cat, Oscar?”
Not long after I was out running and heard a cat crying loudly, hidden on the sidewalk behind a recently-emptied trash bin. It looked unwell or injured. I was headed home to shower and get dressed for work at a church I served as interim pastor. I don’t have time for this, I thought, thinking of the story of the Good Samaritan in which the lay minister and the priest ignored a beaten up traveler on their way from Jericho to the Temple at Jerusalem.
My vacationing neighbors’ cat had recently bitten me when we played while checking his food, water, and litter box. So I was hesitant to pick up an injured cat that might be defensive, especially since I was dressed only in running shorts and shoes.
Home was not far, so I ran there, cleaned up, and returned in my car with water, tuna fish (my closest approximation of cat food), and my dog’s pain medication, leftover from a previous need. At first I didn’t see the cat, his having moved from the sidewalk. At that moment, a neighbor happened to come out of her house on her way to work, and I told her about the distressed cat just as we found it again on a driveway. The cat did not seem responsive either to the water or the tuna.
Lisa, the neighbor, thought the owners were out of town, but it had always been a neighborhood cat, left behind by the previous owners of the house, and many of the neighbors provided him food and water. I went up to the front door and found a note that the residents were out of town, a note which included a cell phone number, so I phoned and left a message.
It so happened that Lisa was a cat lover, owned a cat-carrier, and we shared the same veterinarian group, Ansley Animal Clinic. She offered to drop him off on her way to work and let the owners know. Relieved, I went off to work myself.
A few days later, running in the neighborhood again, I wanted to find Lisa and discover how things turned out. I couldn’t remember which house was hers. Serendipitously, she emerged from her house once more, and I was able to learn the cat’s fate. He had been extremely dehydrated, and the speculation was that he had fallen into the trash bin a few days before and liberated by the refuse collectors the day I found him. The vet gave him an IV to rehydrate him, and later that day, the owners retrieved their recovered cat. A small neighborhood miracle! And to think, I had not wanted to get involved!
Intending to thank the vet during my dog’s next appointment, I asked Lisa what the cat’s name was. “Well,” she said, “His owners call him ---, but all the neighbors call him Oscar.” I was so astonished by the name “Oscar” I totally forgot the other name.
Goosebumps all around. Yet another Oscar!
I believe we all have such stories to tell. They may or may not fit neatly into our theologies, but they surprise us with grace in a seemingly ungracious world. Toward the end of his career as a 20th century Jesuit theologian, Karl Rahner famously wrote, “The Christian of the future will be a mystic or will not exist at all.”
According to Rabbi Lawrence Kushner, “A mystic is someone who has the gnawing suspicion that just beneath the apparent contradictions, brokenness, and discord of this everyday world lies a hidden unity.”
I couldn’t obtain a photo of any of the Oscars in this post, so for fun I’ve included one of the Abercrombie cats generated by college students that made the rounds on the internet and Facebook.
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Copyright © 2014 by Chris R. Glaser. Permission granted for non-profit use with attribution of author and blogsite. Other rights reserved.